Recent research by charity Scope revealed that eighty percent of disabled people don’t feel they are well represented in the media. This calls for a change.
One of the most high-profile disabled models, Jillian Mercado, a 28-year-old with spastic muscular dystrophy, has starred in campaigns for Diesel and Beyoncé, but she is still in the minority. Mercado’s says, ‘My goal is to make it so that I am not the model in the wheelchair and I’m just the model. If I can do big shows like Alexander Wang or Chanel and not be seen as the token girl, that goes a long way toward challenging perceptions.’
Ade Adepitan, TV presenter and medal-winning Paralympian says in his interview with ‘Campaign’: ‘What do I think of the portrayal of disabled people in advertising? The main problem is that it’s really hard for me to even think of any ads with them in. That’s disappointing. In order to change perceptions and have progression in our society, you have to represent and reflect society as much as possible. I know lots of disabled people and I don’t see them in advertising.’
Mobility retailer essentialaids.com have responded to this by launching its eye-catching ‘Express Yourself’ campaign using 28-year-old model JT who has a Mohican, piercings, tattoos and Cerebral Palsy.
Essential Aids Managing Director Alex Wrenn explains ‘We are determined to break down the stereotypes the label ‘disabled’ can provoke. The premise behind the ‘Express Yourself’ campaign is that our mobility products help people to celebrate their identity, interests and above all their individuality. We’re very aware that our customers are hugely diverse and we’re confident that this campaign highlights that fact”.
Their model, JT, is a graduate in industrial design, and explains why he was keen to get involved in the essential aids campaign: ‘I feel specialist equipment can create a barrier, whereby instead of helping the users in their everyday life, it enhances their disability more. This is why I like the Essential Aids campaign, because it’s more about the user than the aid.’
Designers Teatum Jones used many disabled models in their catwalk shows and say ‘Our goal…. is to champion the idea that what we think of a ‘whole’ or ‘perfect’ is open to interpretation, deconstruction, and ultimately reformation.’
Essentialaids.com believe that if more disabled models like JT were visible in the media, it would inevitably lead to a re-evaluation of the disabled body. Perhaps it would also encourage more shops to improve their accessibility and the trickle-down effect would be that society as a whole would become more inclusive.